That was the headline of some pre-paid advertising/pretend article in the "health suppliment" of the Boston Metro this morning. "The fat that is not your fault". Is that loaded or what? Its designed to preserve the feeling of superiority over fat people while still tapping into feelings of shame about body imperfections among thin people. Evidently, the "fat" that you're absolved of responsibility for is cellulite. So don't feel bad! Well, feel a little bad, anyway, because they've got something to sell you.
This actually reminded me of the long history in the diet industry of co-opting fat acceptance. Whenever I get discouraged about the progress (or lack thereof) of fat acceptance, I just need to look at how aggressively the diet industry was tried to subver it. If they think we're this much of a threat, we must be doing something right, you know? Still, its frustrating to see the language and vocabulary of fat activists constantly redefined by those opposed to fat acceptance to suit their contrary needs.
Frankly, its made a lot of long-time activists very skeptical. Talking the talk isn't enough, because our harshest detractors keep stealing our copy points. Its profoundly frustrating to see all of the messages of fat acceptances perverted with the addition of "but not our diet" at the end of all of our messages.
"Diets don't work! That's why we're not a diet, but a whole new way of eating."
"Weight and food obsessions overwhelm your identity, but not with our handy diet aid."
"Fat is genetic. Your only option is to amputate your digestive organs."
"The thin ideal is unattainable for nearly everyone. Our weight loss plan encourages you to find attainable ideals to redefine what kind of a failure you are."
"Being fat isn't your fault. Its still horrible and unacceptable, though."
This places constant challenges on communicating about fat acceptance. That challenges for which there are no easy answers. The radical power of fat acceptance has become diluted by our language being misused like this, which in turn makes what statements remain undamaged all the more extremist to a casual observer even if the aren't remotely extreme. Our message is really quite sedate, but its been radicalized by is opposition. Mainstream fat acceptance is treated like extremism. Its something activists either embrace or resent, and I admit I'm in the resentful camp primarily because this redefinition has allowed a lot of diet promoters to now also subvert the term "size acceptance" and they try to position diet promotion as the moderate face of the movement. Its the ultimate subversion of the diet industry. While it may prove we are doing something right, I'm still not saying I'm happy with it.
We need to take back the language of fat acceptance. The fat that's not your fault? That's all your fat. And its okay, too. Diets don't work, even if you call them something else. Allowing big food companies to charge you to pre-package food into diet friendly portions isn't giving up food obsessions. Giving up food obsessions is giving up food obsessions. If you accept your body, you'll have already attained an ideal. Surgery, pills, dieting are not the only options for dealing with a genetic tendency towards fatness. Acceptance is always an option, always attainable